Who pays for an embedded journalist's medical bills?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Jan. 31 2006 6:17 PM

Who's Going To Pay for Bob Woodruff's Medical Care?

Do military hospitals take insurance?

Download the MP3 audio version of this story here. The Explainer now has its own free daily podcast; click here to learn more.

Don't worry. He's covered. Click image to expand.
Don't worry. He's covered

ABC's Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt, who were injured Sunday in an attack on a military convoy near Baghdad, returned to the United States on Tuesday. The embedded journalists were first airlifted to a military hospital in Germany, then sent on to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Who's going to pay for all their medical care?

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Probably their insurance companies. As a matter of course, embedded journalists sign release forms that—in this (PDF) version, at least—make it very clear that the government isn't responsible for the cost of any medical care in the field: "Persons receiving government medical or dental care who are not otherwise eligible to receive such care shall be obligated to reimburse the government." (The military also offered to supply the first embedded reporters with vaccinations against smallpox and anthrax—as long as they were willing to pay for them.)

Advertisement

The Department of Defense says that Woodruff's and Vogt's care will be charged to their insurance. Large military hospitals—or Military Treatment Facilities—generally accept payment via the government's health plan, called TRICARE. When a civilian without TRICARE coverage ends up in an MTF, he can arrange to pay his bills with his own insurance plan.

ABC News claims that the network will take care of the medical bills. They wouldn't say, though, whether they'll pay Woodruff's and Vogt's medical expenses directly, or if they'll let the insurance cover it. ABC also won't say if these on-the-job injuries would be covered under workman's comp. They do say that no matter what happens, taxpayers won't foot the bill.

That said, it's not clear how many of the medical expenses will actually get billed. Not all military hospitals in the field have the time or resources to track individual patients. The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Crawley, an embedded journalist who fell ill four days after the fall of Baghdad, was evacuated from a surgical unit to a Navy hospital, and then to an Army medical center in Kuwait. Though he spent several days under the care of military doctors, Crawley says he was never asked to pay a dime. Larger hospitals—like the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where Woodruff and Vogt arrived on Monday—do have the means to track and charge civilian patients. 

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Terry Jones of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Jeffrey Schneider of ABC News.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

Moneybox

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.

Music

A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Music
Sept. 14 2014 11:44 PM A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?